The reeds provide little nooks and crannies to explore on Great Pond in Cape Elizabeth, and they also provide a bit of wind shelter. Photo by Christine Wolfe

Remember back when you were a kid how excited you were at the prospect of an impending snowstorm cancelling school the next day. The next morning you anxiously turned on your bedside radio and listened to the alphabetical roll call of school cancellations.

And there it was, your school, providing that exhilarating feeling of an unexpected day of pure freedom. A November canoe outing on Cape Elizabeth’s largest pond, Great Pond, provides a similar thrill. Grab a blue-sky day and let the magic unfold.

Where the trees come down to the shoreline you will find a good spot around the corner to get out and stretch. Photo by Christine Wolfe

This little gem is part of the impressive Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt trail system. You will have to carry your canoe 200 yards in from the end of Fenway Street down a forest-lined path to the sandy put-in spot. Near the put-in sits a pair of long boat racks with canoes and kayaks on them. Every year, 32 lucky Cape Elizabeth citizens win the lottery that allows them to keep their boats here.

We enjoyed two hours of exploring; poking in and out of every reed-lined cove and shoreline indentation. North of the pond you will see a line of homes up on the Fowler Road. Other than that, your paddle will be a wilderness experience. The pond is 2 miles in circumference. We spent more time sitting in the canoe enjoying the peace and quiet than we did digging our paddles into the water. For couples this is a special spot to take in a few deep breaths, let out a few cleansing exhales, relax after the stress of the election, and share a few heartfelt “I love yous”  back and forth.

A front had just past to the south and the deep blue sky and scattering of wispy clouds created an ever-changing early afternoon panorama. It was breezy, but there were plenty of tiny islands of dried reeds to hide behind and watch the clouds play in the blue. Montana might be “Big Sky Country,” but Great Pond provides a Maine equivalent, just on a smaller scale.

Gulls wheeled overhead and frolicked in the middle of the pond. A few ducks floated yards from us, diving under and emerging seconds later. My wife was much better than me in aiming the binoculars to where they would emerge. The unmistakable shrill cry of a hawk caught our attention high above. A pair circled above the pond. Remnants of pickerelweed leaves swayed in the breeze. We stopped often to listen to the soothing sound of the wind sifting through the brown reeds and cattails lining the pond.

At three points in your circumference of the pond you will see where the forest comes right down to the shoreline. At each of these spots there are flat ledges to get out on and enjoy the beauty of the pond from land. White tufts of burst cattail spikes and milkweed pods floated across the water. Duck and goose down feathers lined the shoreline along with the shiny open shells of fresh water clams.

Great Pond could be considered Maine’s version of “Big Sky Country.” Photo by Christine Wolfe

Back at the put-in we sat on our PFDs on the sand and enjoyed 15 more minutes of the lowering sun warming our faces. Then, all of a sudden a menacing black band of clouds moved in and it was November again.

If you have extra time you can hike the trail along the eastern side of the pond a mile down to Route 77 near where the Two Lights Road heads down to Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse. Even in mid-November there are still brilliant foliage displays to enjoy courtesy of oak and beech trees.

Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 3) for help in getting to Route 77 and the Fowler Road. Turn right onto the Fowler road just past the Pond Cove IGA. A mile down the Fowler Road turn left onto Fenway Street and drive to the end. Park along the road, not in the cul de sac. To maintain the privilege to park here, do not park on the grass of the home owners. There is plenty of room on the road.

Remember: November weather is fickle. If you see a window of opportunity stop wallpapering or raking the yard and grab your paddles. The day after our outing on Great Pond we went through a brief period of snow on our morning bike ride.

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses and schools. Contact: [email protected]


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